TPPA: terms and trades of copyright

There are many concerning aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), most notably the fact that it is being negotiated in secret but the intellectual property provisions recently revealed are deeply worrying..

The leaked intellectual property chapter reveals serious disputes between NZ and US negotiators. The proposals, driven by US corporations, push for substantial changes that will lead to all New Zealanders paying more for movies, DVDs and books. Russel Norman has called on the New Zealand Government to not give in to the US over the TPPA.

I recently blogged on the TPPA risks to copyright exemptions, temporary copies and technological protection measures but I would like to draw your attention to Creative Freedom NZ who have written an interesting blog post after their discussion with David Walker, NZ’s Chief Negotiator for the TPPA. They raise some valid concerns that intellectual property provisions in New Zealand may be traded away for dairy deals and highlight the risks to ‘orphan works.’

One part that struck me was around copyright terms:

Angela Strahl, who is handling the IP chapter, stated that NZ’s Parallel Importing abilities are likely to stay unchanged, as is the ability to set our own limitations and exceptions to our domestic Copyright law. However, it was strongly hinted at that an extension of our Copyright Term is inevitable.

As Walker put it: only three of the twelve countries involved in the negotiations currently have a Life + 50 copyright term (NZ, Canada, and Japan); no-one has signed a trade agreement with the US that hasn’t included at least a Life + 70 year copyright term; and if you were to place a bet on what way NZ was going to go, those are some pretty big odds.

I looked at what this would mean for New Zealand music and literature a while back and found many Kiwi classics would be out of the public domain for decades if copyright terms were extended. An iconic song that would be impacted by the copyright extension is the Fourmyula’s “Nature” which was voted the best New Zealand song ever written. Produced in 1969 this song should enter the public domain in 2020 to be remixed, re-played, and re-imagined however under proposed TPPA rules Kiwis would have to wait to 2040! Looking at books, New Zealand’s first ever gay novel, works of James K Baxter and Dame Ngaio Marsh would similarly be affected. Longer copyright terms are not going to incentivise creatives to create more; they are just going to cost the public being able to access these works of art.


Gareth with some books currently set to enter the public domain but could be affected by the TPPA.
Gareth with some books currently set to enter the public domain but could be affected by the TPPA.

I think New Zealand should have a conversation about what copyright means to us and its purpose is in 2013 and New Zealanders should decide what the appropriate length should be – not decided in secretive ‘behind closed doors’ meetings where for a little bit more dairy access we may trade away our ability to set our own rules.

If you would like to do something about it check out the Fair Deal website.


18 Comments Posted

  1. The weird thing about the TPPA is how I keep hearing that prices will increase and I’ll be unable to buy the way I used to buy. That’s not freedom of trade, that’s restriction.

  2. According to the government negotiators, there’s few benefits in the TPPA for New Zealand anyway. They claim we have about as much access to the US market as we can use, and that the only value of the thing is as a model for future agreements, that may or may not happen.

  3. In honesty? I’m worried about the whole lot of it. But the fact that the USA is demanding a stupidly high price doesn’t mean we should be obliged give up something on the lower end of that, which we’d not have wanted to give up if they hadn’t made an absurd demand to begin with.

  4. I love books and arts; but I can survive without buying too many if they become too expensive or not accessible…
    I am more worried by patent extension for many drugs…which will screw a lot of people’s lives, not mention costing the country heaps more.

  5. I quite like the Copyright mechanism which the USA began with, early on. Copyright would last for a fixed period, and at the end of that period it could be renewed by the copyright holder for another fixed period. This enabled the holder to keep earning from some good creativity (for a while), but it also required them to demonstrate an active interest in actually doing so.

    Thus the vast majority of creative works will fall into public domain to be preserved and built upon, before they fall into total obscurity and are lost. Meanwhile, mega-corporate Disney and its mega-corporate friends can continue to siphon cash from creative works of people long-dead, from nearly a hundred years before, without having to destroy the longevity of the remainder rest of society’s creative works at the same time. As long as works are being created for society, that’s all that’s needed. It’s getting the term correct which is most important.

    As for those who reckon copyright should last forever (not too present in this particular thread, interestingly enough), I couldn’t care less about that view. IP is not like real physical property which is unable to be possessed by multiple people at a time, and the nature of IP even creates a big advantage for fortunate creators (or more often publishers), especially in the digital age, because after creation there’s an almost zero variable cost for creating additional sales.

    But the intellectual property monopoly only exists because the rest of us choose to accept a temporary restraint on our free speech, so as to encourage artists to create them. Not every work has a clear creator, and sometimes works are made from so many different creators that it’s completely impractical to track everyone down. Even outside the traditional, I’m aware of at least one giant scientific data-sets which simply can’t be legally used or built upon any more, because those which hold them have lost track of or been unable to coordinate the 20 or 30 organisations which originally contributed to the sources of the data—it has nothing to do with art or traditional creativity, but copyright laws are stifling what could otherwise be very useful science!

    There’s a clear interest in taking advantage of creative works which will never amount to a creator’s financial benefit.

    For example, if it weren’t for disconcertingly long copyright terms:

    * Projects such as Gutenberg would be able to preserve and make-available obscure-but-interesting works from more recently than 1923, before they disappear.

    * If it weren’t for New Zealand’s current copyright terms, the National Library would have a much easier job of providing online newspaper archives (see Papers Past—an awesomely convenient resource for anyone trying to research New Zealand’s history) from more recently than 1945.

    It’s a shame we’re expected to kiss up to the US on this one. My impression has been that the TPPA made more sense before the likes of the USA and Japan decided to get involved so they could use it to strong-arm everyone else towards their own ideals.

  6. Hours of labour spent developing an idea or product seems the obvious thing. At some high, but not ridiculously high, wage level.

  7. A good idea indeed.
    Now, how do we define a “reasonable” return?

    Is it based on how long you say you spent thinking up the idea, or how much money you invested to arrive at the definable IP, OR SHOULD WE MAKE IT A NUMBER OF WEEKS AVERAGE INCOME IN THE COUNTRY YOU LIVE OR WERE BORN IN. (whoops sorry, caps were unintentional)

    Bit of a bugger this thing eh! ROI was always a challenge to properly define when I was in Business School

  8. “…have some sympathy for the family of an IP developer working hard who finally completes his project at the expense of his family but dies before reaping the financial benefit”

    Fair enough, why not make IP last until somebody has recieved a reasonable (or even an unreasonable one?) financial return for their labour? That way a creator keeps the returns on an idea or product that isn’t much value to society for a long time, but at a low rate of return, and ideas that are of huge value to people return a quick profit, yet aren’t kept tied up for decades?

    Society gets the benefit of good ideas quickly and creators get rewarded.

  9. So Trevor, what do you propose?
    Perhaps copyright should by 20 years from first registration? If so how do you establish a copyright initiation?

    Patents are easier, there is a detailed prOcess, copyright is harder, there is no proof of “ownership” without a court case.
    So many issues around IP, but let’s not give up, let’s created something in between the rigorous patents process and the casual copyright symbol annexation.

  10. dave – have some sympathy for the family of an IP developer working hard who finally completes his project at the expense of his family but dies before reaping the financial benefit. Shouldn’t they be entitled to some reward for their sacrifice? However I agree that 50 years after the death of an IP developer who died another 50 years after developing that IP is a bit much.


  11. BJ
    Personally I think copyright should expire with theIP’s creator. However, I do think it should exist. What Mr. Taylor seems to advocate is total abolition of all IP rights. THAT I disagree with.

    I don’t actually see where you and I differ here, though age may be hampering my sight

  12. Someone who is dead isn’t using a damned thing Mr Stringer. Perhaps you should consider that “property rights” aren’t sacred and forever.

    Something that gives us the ability to make a few bucks from a good idea makes sense. Something that cripples the ability of the society to use that idea for a century, doesn’t.

    Think of ideas as the hot neutrons in the reactor. The trigger enough other neutrons and you get nuclear power. Stick the dampers in so they don’t trigger others, can’t be used? You get nothing.

    Basically your ideology gives a botox injection to the arts and sciences where the copyright rule gets applied

  13. Mr. Taylor

    Based on your comment:-
    “Intellectual Property” doesn’t need making bigger and worse than it already is – it needs to be abolished ”
    I thought you wouldn’t want to be paid for your labour now while you are alive.

    I personally stopped billing for my time and intellect on my 63rd birthday.

  14. Dear Mr Stringer,

    When I have been dead for 50 years, I have no expectation that I will be billing anyone for my labour. How about you?

  15. Mr. Taylor
    I see that, being bereft of original thought yourself you advocate legalised theft of that of others. Perhaps you have something everyone else could use for free, like your labour.

  16. Given that the TPPA is being negotiated, it makes sense that it be done behind closed doors, or should all negotiations involving governments be conducted in the media?

    Note, your answer will be perpetually in the public domain and may be referred to in future governments.

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